The Upside review
You really have to admire caregivers. Their in a career and position where not only do their lives revolve around their clients, but deal with people that require more attention then a lot of toddlers. What I'm getting at is that it takes a kind of person that has to accomplish two goals; to be willing to get through the tougher moments and to deliver it in a way that isn't patronizing. Many tend to forget that even if their dealing with a child, senior, or disabled, there's still a person inside that doesn't want to feel like a patient.
One of the better movies about caretaking was a French film called The Intouchables. This was a lighter movie about race and class difference about two people who are forced into positions that help them become friends, even though circumstance probably wouldn't have them do so in any other moment. It was nothing game changing or masterful, but it was still a nice story that put a smile on my face like how The Green Book did earlier. Its also common that if a foreign film did well, it's likely to get an American adaptation. Let's see if The Upside can generate a similar feeling.
Dell Scott (played by Kevin Hart) is a ex con who is trying to find any job so that he can provide for his wife Latrice and his son who wants nothing to do with him. When given a few days to acquire signatures to prove he's looking for work or he'll be sent back to prison, he answers an ad that he thinks is for a janitor job. It turns out that it's actually a caregiver job for a powerful businessman/author Phillip Lacasse (played by Bryan Cranston). Phillip takes a liking to Dell's honesty and hires him, despite having no medical experience.
Dell understands that because Phillip is now a quadriplegic, he has to help with everything including eating, lifting, exercising, and driving. Dell proceeds through this as the pay is no only higher then he could imagine, but it also gives him a nice place to stay. While Dell uses his street smarts to treat Phillip like any other guy who needs to loosen up, Phillip influences Dell to try harder at life and to appreciate the finer arts like painting and opera. Both even seem to learn about each others love life as they try to figure out where to proceed.
The Upside had to potential to be a lighter comedy if nothing more. I can't see much they can do to improve upon The Intouchables, but a remake can still be entertaining. Unfortunately, this is a project where a lot of the story and comedy don't go well together. This isn't a really bad movie by all means, but I have a hard time trying to figure out who this was made for. It's too sappy for most Kevin Hart fans wanting something really funny or too gross for those wanting an inspiring story.
The biggest problem is Kevin Hart. He can be a good comedic talent, but he needs to be attached to the right project in order to take advantage of his style of comedy. I can see him as an over sarcastic schemer, but not as a former thug just getting out of prison. It isn't really his fault, but this was probably an example of a studio putting in a project just because he's popular. I could see a Michael B. Jordan or Chadwick Boseman playing this kind of part better. It was going to be a flaw no matter how hard he tried.
Working much better is Bryan Cranston, who seems fine as a wealthy aristocrat whose now facing a new world with his disability. He even manages to have good chemistry with both Kevin Hart and his assistant played by Nicole Kidman. It only makes you wonder why they put all these people in The Upside. Had the movie either slipped into a lighter comedy or just go out all gripping drama, this could have had a more consistent voice, but it seemed that it was afraid to pick one and try to go all over the place tone wise.
I'll give this two wheelchairs out of five. Perhaps there is an audience that won't mind a conflicting tone and want to engage in this story. If people want a better movie, I would point to either The Green Book or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, if their looking for something about paralysis. Or if you want a better story of this, then watch the original French The Intouchables. I just found this more boring then bad.